To be precise, it is Arlette, 42, who is pregnant—with Christa's twins. She is carrying eggs extracted from Christa, 22, and fertilized by Christa's husband, Kevin, 28. Surrogate gestations have been successful in at least 80 births in the U.S. But this one is different: Arlette is Christa's mother. The school librarian is the first known American (a South African woman bore triplets for her daughter in 1987) to carry her own grandchildren, due in October.
Eight years ago, Christa, a teacher's assistant, learned she was born without a uterus. "I knew it meant I couldn't have children—no one had to tell me," says Christa. "I'd just assumed I would be a mom, like my mom. We all cried."
Then, in 1984, Arlette and Dan Schweitzer took Christa for a consultation to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "In jest, I said I wished I could give Christa my uterus," remembers Arlette. "[The doctor] asked how old I was. When I said 36, it was like a light bulb went on for all of us." In fact, the idea that Arlette could carry Christa's baby seemed so natural to the two of them that they hardly ever discussed it again. "I never asked her to do it," says Christa. "I never would have asked her. She just said, 'Let's do it. I'm ready when you are.' "
Sustained by the certainty that she had an "option," Christa went on with her life. She attended Northern State University and got a part-time job working with her father, a sales rep for the Keebler Company, who introduced her to Kevin, the assistant manager of an Aberdeen food store. Christa married Kevin in August 1989. "Kevin thought it was neat my mom could carry my babies," says Christa. "If he couldn't understand this, he wouldn't have been the right man for me."
A year later, Christa told her mother she was ready to try for a baby. "We never really discussed it," says Arlette. "It was just clear we would do it." In January the two women began taking drugs to put their reproductive systems in sync. On Feb. 21, Dr. William Phipps, an endocrinologist at the University of Minnesota, used an ultrasound-guided needle to retrieve 11 eggs from Christa in a 50-minute procedure. They were fertilized with Kevin's sperm, and four eggs were chosen for implantation.
Since then it's been pregnancy as usual. "I'm healthy, I feel great," says Arlette, who recently went hiking in the mountains with the three grandchildren from her son, Curtis, 26. Christa, meanwhile, has joyfully started creating a nest for the twins. "My animals, my home, my husband, that's my life," she says. "Now I'll have babies too. It will be perfect."
Arlette and Dan look back and also sense a kind of perfection to their lives. Devout Roman Catholics, they believe they've been pointing for this moment since they first met. "I think it must have been in God's plan for us to have had our children so young," says Arlette, "so I'd be young enough to have these babies for our daughter."
MARGARET NELSON in Aberdeen and Sioux City
- Margaret Nelson.
ONE AFTERNOON LAST MARCH, ARLETTE Schweitzer of Aberdeen, S.Dak., called Christa Uchytil of Sioux City, Iowa, and said, "You're pregnant!"